Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat - NL

by Tim Heaney on August 9, 2010 @ 15:30:00 PDT

 


In fantasy baseball, the closer position remains volatile. Rarely does every closer hang on to the job for an entire season - injuries, poor performance and managerial decisions can cloud a team's bullpen picture.

Should you be concerned about a struggling stopper? Which relievers are climbing the depth chart? Are any injuries popping up? KFFL.com's Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat keeps you informed when you're looking for saves.

Key

Job security (JS) score 1 (unstable) to 5 (untouchable)
Health (H) score 1 (injury-prone) to 5 (durable)

 

Milwaukee Brewers

Closer: John Axford, Trevor Hoffman

Manager Ken Macha finally pulled the stalled trigger by inserting Hoffman into a save situation Saturday. The vet obliged with his 597th career closure after a scoreless inning.

Cincinnati Reds RP Francisco Cordero
Baker is stirring his Coco

Will they keep Hoffman on as a co-closer after he reaches 600? "Hoffman has earned his way back into closing games," Macha said. In his last 19 games, the Hoff has posted a 1.42 ERA; he's also riding a nine-appearance scoreless string.

Axford has not done much to fall out of the closer role, but the fact that he can pitch multiple innings more effectively than Hoffman could put him behind in the depth chart eventually. Both of these relievers must be owned; lock up both if possible.

Job security score: 4

Health score: 5

Florida Marlins

Closer: Leo Nunez

Understudy: Clay Hensley

Lurkers: Jose Veras, Brian Sanches, Taylor Tankersley

Nunez has blown a save chance in each of his last two outings. Starting off August: 12.00 ERA and a 3.67 WHIP in three innings pitched. He has been relying too much on his changeup and ignoring his fastball.

"For now, he's our closer, but if he doesn't make an adjustment, we may have to explore other options - maybe do a closer by committee," interim manager Edwin Rodriguez said.

If they incorporate other options besides Nunez, Florida could carry an ugly saves situation. Nunez has the best skills of anyone possibly involved; Hensley should probably be the first speculative target.

Any other reliever would probably be a situational option and wouldn't make a long-term, pickup-worthy dent in a fantasy saves race unless E-Rod makes a surprise decision.

Job security score: 3

Health score: 5

Cincinnati Reds

Closer: Francisco Cordero

Understudy: Nick Masset

Cordero saved Cincy's Friday game and was called on for a Saturday repeat. He fanned the first batter, followed by - ouch - walk, walk and hit batsman. Enter Masset, who walked one to plate one but ended things to save a one-run win.

Manager Dusty Baker said he's sticking with Coco despite the Saturday changeup. Cordero has converted 13 of his last 14 opportunities. The righty is working with pitching coach Bryan Price on some mechanical issues the team thinks will cut down his number of walks.

Hold tight; Cincy doesn't have any other legit long-term options, so they'll work with Cordero for as long as they can.

Job security score: 5

Health score: 5

Pittsburgh Pirates

Closer: Joel Hanrahan, Evan Meek

Milwaukee Brewers RP Trevor Hoffman
Hoffman more than just a number

Hanrahan threw 31 pitches Friday during his two-run, three-hit disaster. The Pittsburgh Pirates' quasi co-closer then was put in Saturday and gave up three runs on three hits. Hanny has now allowed at least one run in three of his last four appearances. Are the cries for Meek growing?

He's still an option if they feel Hanrahan at least should rest. Recent comments by general manager Neal Huntington reiterated the Bucs' reluctance to name a solo stopper; they're still feeling out both pitchers. Expect Hanrahan and Meek to see save chances, but the former remains the better bet for them if both arms are fresh.

Job security score: 4

Health score: 5

Washington Nationals

Closer: Committee

Understudy: Drew Storen

Lurkers: Sean Burnett, Tyler Clippard, Joel Peralta

Though Storen wrapped things up with a scoreless frame Friday, Nats manager Jim Riggleman wouldn't name the righty as the exclusive stopper, especially since he's still concerned about Storen's walk total. His fastball command remains a work in progress.

The rook, however, has come into most situations that would dictate a closer's presence, i.e. the Nats using him based on save situation possibility.

Storen remains the best bet for Nats saves, but Riggleman's feeling that he could use anyone if necessary probably caps Storen's contribution in the category for now. Chasing anyone below Burnett is a losing proposition, since options that low on the totem pole are probably situational plays.

Job security score: 1

Health score: 5

Mound meetings

  • Aaron Heilman closed things out Friday for the Arizona Diamondbacks but was beaten up Saturday (two solo homers in a blown chance). The righty was unavailable Sunday after pitching four straight days and warming up in the two days before that run.
    Heilman has held opponents scoreless in 10 of his last 12 appearances and can be considered the best bet for D-backs saves if you need to trek this dangerous road.
  • Huston Street had pitched on three straight days for the Colorado Rockies before being deemed unavailable Sunday. He failed to protect a two-run lead when he allowed a three-run, game-losing jack Saturday. The Rockies are trying to achieve the delicate balance between giving him enough work to find a rhythm and enough rest to remain fresh. Street said fatigue isn't an issue.
  • It was a happily uneventful weekend for Brad Lidge, who with Friday and Sunday saves gave up just one hit in two combined innings. In 4 1/3 scoreless August frames, he has logged four K's and given up just two hits. The Philadelphia Phillies' righty might be finding a groove in his busy schedule, and he's reportedly comfortable pitching out of the stretch again.
  • Billy Wagner had pitched three straight days (including a Friday blown shot and a Saturday save), so Takashi Saito wrapped things up for the Atlanta Braves on Sunday.
    Jonny Venters
    continues to excel in the setup role, but it's likely the Bravos would side with Saito for saves if Wagner were to miss any time. Manager Bobby Cox would probably side with Saito's experience and save Venters for tough setup situations.
  • A four-run inning (a single and homer each drove in two) scarred Matt Lindstrom's Friday save chance for the Houston Astros. It was the first time in 11 games that he had allowed a run. No long-term jeopardy here.
  • On Saturday, Ryan Franklin blew his first save chance since May 7 and only his second opp of the year by allowing two runs on three hits, including a homer. Blame faulty location for what the righty called three mistake pitches. A bump in the road. Move on.
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Fantasy Baseball Closer Hot Seat: AL | NL

Fantasy baseball closer depth charts: AL | NL

About Tim Heaney

Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.

During baseball and football season, he appears on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio on Thursdays and Sundays, and every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.

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